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Solving South Africa’s energy crisis: renewable energy projects offer new hope

A photo of the Cookhouse Wind Energy Facility

The Cookhouse Wind Energy Facility

15 January 2013 - South Africa’s electricity network requires considerable reform over the coming decades if the country is to successfully diversify its generation mix to sources other than coal to meet the increasing demand for power. This view is supported by The Department of Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010-2030 which anticipates the introduction of 41 346 MW of new generation across various technologies and geographies over the coming 20 years.

In November 2012, 28 renewable energy projects received the impetus they had been waiting for when government signed power purchase, implementation and direct agreements that will enable wind and solar projects identified as preferred bidders under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (SA REIPPPP) in December 2011 to move to financial closure. These projects total an installed capacity of 1 415 MW at an approximate investment of R47 billion, with several installations expected to commence commercial operation in 2014.

As a market leader in renewable energy and a trusted advisor for infrastructure engineering, Aurecon is playing a leading role in ensuring the successful realisation of six of these projects, totalling more than 400 MW, in the capacity of Owner’s Engineer (OE) and Balance of Plant Design Engineer.

“Aurecon understands the business case for sustainable energy, and we are excited about the role we are playing in shaping South Africa’s energy future,” comments Blair Walter, Aurecon’s Renewable Energy Competency Leader.

Aurecon Renewable Energy Services Leader for Africa, Paul Nel, adds that there are significant challenges facing the building of all of these renewable projects.

“There is often a lack of local experience pertaining to these kinds of projects, and what’s more, they all involve technology new to the South African market.”

Walter agrees, explaining that “The need for an experienced consultant to apply best-in-industry experience to overcome these challenges is key to achieving successful outcomes”.

A snapshot of these six projects, three of which are wind farms and three solar installations, appears below:

Delivering world-class renewable energy assets

Cookhouse Wind Energy Facility
The Cookhouse Wind Energy Facility in the Eastern Cape was the largest project awarded preferred bidder status during the first bidding window of the SA REIPPPP. It will have an installed capacity of 138.6 MW, powered by 66 Suzlon S88 2.1 MW wind turbines and is expected to be one of the first projects to commence construction within the SA REIPPPP framework; starting in January 2013, with commercial operations planned for June 2014.

Aurecon has acted as Owner’s Engineer on the Cookhouse Wind Farm project since early 2009, providing a wide range of technical advisory services to help progress the project through feasibility and financing phases, including the layout design of the wind farm, wind resource and energy yield assessments and technical advisory services.

“We’ve subsequently been appointed by Renewables Cookhouse Wind Farm (Pty) Ltd to serve as Owner’s Engineer on this project for the construction phase, essentially fulfilling a very vital quality assurance function which includes contract management and administration, close management of project budgets, cash flows and timelines and monitoring site progress,” comments Walter.

He adds that the project is widely recognised as the leading wind farm project in South Africa and will look to deliver a world-class renewable energy asset.

Hopefield Wind Farm
The second wind farm, Hopefield Wind Farm, is located on 2 200 hectares of farmland near the town of Hopefield in the Western Cape. It will have an installed capacity of 67 MW with a total project value of approximately R1.5 billion. Vestas V100 1.8 MW turbines will be used to meet the 67 MW capacity and will secure an annual yield of approximately 190 GWh.

The farm is expected to take 14 months to construct, starting in early 2013, while the contract has been structured by developer Umoya Energy (Pty) Ltd in such a way that community development and upliftment are achieved through local contract employment and a host of other related community projects.

Aurecon has been appointed by Vestas to provide support for the project in terms of site supervision to ensure high technical quality of the Balance of Plant (BoP) constructed on site. Aurecon will also be providing health and safety and environmental monitoring to ensure compliance with legislation and international best practice.

Dassiesklip Wind Farm
A third wind farm, Dassiesklip Wind Farm, located close to Caledon in the Western Cape, will utilise a leased area of approximately 602 hectares. The development will be comprised of nine 3 MW Sinovel turbines, with a total installed capacity of 27 MW.

Aurecon has been appointed by Iberdrola / Group Five to provide detailed engineering design for a number of the balance of plant systems, including geotechnical services, turbine foundations and electrical reticulation.

Likewise, three large solar installation projects will also receive significant support from the group.

Letsatsi and Lesedi PV Projects
The Letsatsi and Lesedi Photo-Voltaic (PV) Installations each represent an installed capacity of 75 MW DC. The Letsatsi park will be installed at Soutdrift, near Bloemfontein in the Free State, while Lesedi is located at Humansrus, near Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Construction of both installations will commence in early 2013.

Both projects are owned by the consortium of Solar Reserve, Kensani Group and Intikon Energy.

Aurecon has teamed up with Lonjas to provide services to the owner of both projects, including design review as well as construction supervision and health and safety monitoring, amongst others.

Kathu Solar Energy Facility
The third solar project, Kathu Solar Energy Facility, will be located approximately 16k m north-west of Kathu in the Northern Cape and is expected to have an installed capacity of 100 MW.

Kathu is a well-positioned mining town in an area rich in iron ore deposits and has a strong infrastructure network. The project will comprise a 75 MW AC PV system mounted on a tracking system to follow the sun throughout the day.

Kathu Owners Reisa and Building Energy have appointed Aurecon to fulfil the role of Owner’s Engineer on the project, including ensuring all-important technical compliance on all civil, electrical and construction issues, and assisting with the resolution of technical queries and disputes.

“Renewable energy is experiencing a period of strong growth as countries move to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We are very proud of the work we are doing with our clients on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide community access to renewable energy,” concludes Walter.

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